Barrister Lawal Ishaq is a resident of the area where Irigwe militias massacred scores of Muslim travellers. The Daily Reality (TDR) newspaper had an interview with him, thus:
TDR: Nigerian newspapers, blogs and so on have reported different figures as numbers of Muslim travellers massacre while passing through Jos, Plateau State. Can you tell us how many people were actually killed?
Barrister: So far, the actual number is 26, and security operatives and good Samaritans rescued about 34 people.
TDR: Jos is known as a volatile state where religious crises have become a norm. Was this a sort of reprisal attack or what?
Barrister: Recently, there had been some misunderstanding and skirmishes between Fulani and Miyango tribe in Bassa Local Government. There have been attacks and counter-attacks between them for ages. Recently, it was said that four people were killed, and their corpses were deposited at Plateau Special Hospital. They planned their funerals on Saturday. After they picked the bodies from the hospital, instead of conveying their corpses in the vehicle, they opted to come in large numbers and carried them on foot and were heard chanting war songs in their language. They were over two thousand. They trekked from Plateau hospital, passing “Operation Safe Haven” headquarter, but nobody said anything to them. Their large number was a warning signal, but fortunately, nobody cares.
As they were passing through Rukba Road, unfortunately, their victims were coming back from their annual Zikr event in Bauchi under the leadership of Sheikh Dahiru Usman Bauchi. The event takes place on the first Friday of every new year of the Islamic calendar. So, most of the people killed came from Ondo State. Most of them are Fulani, but they speak Yoruba more than even Fulfulde, and they were followers of the Tijjaniyya sect. They spent a night in Bauchi and left Bauchi early morning. The typical road for them to follow through Jos. They were in five buses, each containing eighteen passengers. So imagine the number.
TDR: You mean they attacked all those five buses?
Yes. All buses were attacked, killing 25 people instantly. One died later in the hospital.
TDR: How did they identify them?
Barrister: Unfortunately, their buses were all carrying the pictures of Sheikh Ibrahim Inyas to indicate that they were on a religious trip. And some of them were chanting Zikr. But there was nothing suspicious about them. It was apparent that they were only passing through Jos. And according to what they have told us, ordinarily, they would have passed Inuwa Nsunde (name of the street) peacefully. But because of the traffic gridlock caused by those people, that was how they met their death.
TDR How long did the attack last?
Barrister: It didn’t last long because already there was tension in that area. So the security operatives are always on high alert. And in this social media era, before you know it, some people were able to record and share images and videos on Facebook and WhatsApp groups.
TDR: Was there any gunshot in their bodies?
Barrister: No! No, any gunshot at all. They used machetes, knives and anything that can kill.
TDR: Any action from the state government?
Barrister: The State Government had reacted promptly. The secretary to the state government came to the place immediately. The police commissioner was there, the director department of security service was there, and the Commandant of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps was also there. So we were together when they dispatched the security personnel team to the area. They retrieved the dead bodies and the injured, who were soon conveyed to the general hospital.
TDR: Was there any arrest?
Barrister: We stayed at the hospital until we were told to go and bury the bodies at 04:30 pm or thereabout. The burial took us more than an hour because we had to put them into a mass grave. We, later on, received information from the police command that about seven people were arrested. But the most important thing is that the resident of that area did not carry out the killing. Those people from Miyango village did this massacre.
TDR: What is the name of their tribe?
Barrister: Irigwe Tribe. They are predominantly Christians. That gives the whole thing a religious colouration because their victims were all Muslims. It took us a great deal to control the situation because some people were so agitated. That is why instead of burying them at the central burial ground, we took them to Dadin Kowa cemetery. That is about fifty kilometres from Jos.
TDR: Thank you, sir.
Barrister: You are welcome.